The Home Office is facing question marks over its EU citizens scheme after a top chef was denied settled status despite saying he has proof of having lived in the UK for almost 15 years.
Polish entrepreneur Damian Wawrzyniak has twice cooked for the royals, was a head chef during the Olympics and has baked alongside cookery star Mary Berry on her BBC programme.
Despite sending employment and tax documentation to the Home Office as part of his application to remain in the UK after Brexit, officials have not given the chef and food consultant unconditional permission to stay in the country he now calls home.
He has only been granted pre-settled status, which means, if the decision is not successfully appealed against, the 39-year-old will be forced to apply again for full settled status, allowing him to stay in the UK indefinitely, within five years.
It would also mean he must maintain continuous residence in the UK to ensure he earns the right to stay from 2022 – a situation which has pushed him to look elsewhere for work.
The father-of-two told the PA news agency: “I was always against even applying [for settled status] but because the business is going really well and we are employing more people, I knew had to make a decision.
“It was against my beliefs to apply to stay in my own home but I decided to do it – and now this is what I get. They have basically said, ‘Thanks very much, you can stay for five more years’.
“I will appeal this and, if I need to, I’ll employ my solicitors. But there are millions of others who will not be able to understand what is going on. We need to get ready for a massive backlash on this.”
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and pro-EU campaigner, called the decision “hugely worrying”.
The 3million, a campaign group for EU citizens living in the UK, said: “The question we have [for] the Home Office is how many EU citizens get the lesser pre-settled status rather than the settled status they are entitled to and then, in contrast to Damian, don’t know/understand what to do next or think it is the right status for them?”
Figures released on Thursday show that more people from Poland have applied for settled status than any other European Union member state.
The nationalities which had made the highest number of applications so far were Polish (153,980), Romanian (125,500) and Italian (106,100).
Of the 800,000 applications dealt with by June 30, 65% (523,330) were granted full status and 35% (279,950) were granted pre-settled status.
The Home Office, which confirmed this week it plans to end free movement on October 31 if there is a no-deal Brexit, said one million people have so far been awarded settled status.
Mr Wawrzyniak, who has a restaurant near Peterborough, told his 17,000 Twitter followers on Friday: “Have lived in the UK for 15 years. Always employed, without gaps, now running own restaurant. Paid thousands of pounds in taxes.
“Employing several people in our restaurant, directly and indirectly. Not good enough to get settled status. This is ridiculous.”
He later tweeted that the deputy chief of European casework at the Home Office has contact him in a bid to reassess his application.
But the setback with his application has tempted him to look for offers of work elsewhere after his experience in trying to secure settled status, a process during which he said he provided corporation tax receipts and P60s in an attempt to prove he had lived full-time in the UK since 2005.
He added: “Due to whole situations with my pre-settled status, all the offers from EU countries & US are becoming more tempting…”
The chef has cooked for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Poland and for the Princess Royal in Britain.
When working as Britain’s Polish food ambassador in 2017, he travelled to Gdansk to cook for William and Kate, serving traditional lard with sourdough bread and pickles, and brined tartare of Baltic Sea wild herring with Fenland shallots.
He was in charge of the champagne and seafood restaurant at the 2012 London Olympics and the Paralympics in the same year.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The EU Settlement Scheme is performing well and more than a million people have already been granted status.
“The automatic checks against government data are making it straightforward for the vast majority of people to apply, but occasionally, more information is needed.
“We have contacted Mr Wawrzyniak to help, and anyone else needing support can call the Settlement Resolution Centre where hundreds of staff are standing by.
“EU citizens and their families have until at least December 2020 to apply.”